An early season-ending knee injury to outside hitter Kaitlyn Griffith forced head coach Amy Barnes to shuffle a few positions in her absence.
While some teams would have faltered with having one of their top players go down, the Lady Warriors stepped up. They finished the season with a 27-18 record and fell one match short of the Class 4A state tournament.
The 2010 Lady Warriors are faced with replacing talent again, but not because of injury. Cherokee County lost three of its top players to graduation in Malorie Rosser, Haley Highfield and Laura Rochester, but the Lady Warriors do return an experienced group with hopes of taking things a step further in 2010.
Rosser, a middle hitter, led the Lady Warriors in kills (203) and blocks (63). Highfield, a setter, posted 570 assists and had 69 aces. Rochester led the team in digs with 243.
Despite those losses, Barnes said the Lady Warriors are looking forward to another great season.
“We have worked hard during the summer, at workouts and at camp,” she said. “We hope to have the season injury free.”
Barnes said she welcomes Griffith’s presence back to the lineup. She said the rest of the team “seems to rally around her.”
“It's just great to have her back,” Barnes said. “Everybody feeds off of her.”
When Griffith went down last year, Barnes called upon Candace Blanchard to fill her role as an outside hitter. Blanchard responded well, and with her return to the lineup, it gives the Lady Warriors depth at the outside positions.
Freshman Jessen Burk is also expected to see time at outside hitter, as well as one of the team's defensive specialists.
Senior Cayla Machleit will play a dual role as a setter and defensive specialist for the Lady Warriors this season. When Machleit isn't setting, those reins will fall to junior Allyson Curry.
Juniors Kristen Abney and Audra Bradley will give the Lady Warriors more depth as defensive specialists.
Filling Rosser's void at middle hitter will be senior Lauren Millsaps, freshman Madison Millsaps and junior Melody Berry. Berry and Madison Millsaps also double as opposite hitters. Junior Hannah Welsh gives the Lady Warriors depth at the opposite hitter position.
The Lady Warriors compete in Class 4A, Area 10 with perennial powers Jacksonville and Alexandria. Cleburne County and Anniston round out the area.
“We’ve been one match away from state the last two years, and either of those years we could have made it,” Barnes said.
“That’s the goal of these girls, to make it to the next level. The determination these girls have, I feel like we have as good a shot as anyone. Our area and regional are going to be very tough again, and it’s going to be a battle. We’re not expecting a cakewalk. We’re expecting a challenge to get to Pelham this year.”